Chocolate-Almond Giant Cinnamon Bun Cake

November 15, 2015
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

To find the time (and stomach-room) to eat cinnamon rolls, you must transform them into a full-fledged sweet. Rescue them from the no man's land between breakfast and dessert and drop them squarely into the SUGAR category. Make them gaudy and sophisticated enough for a dinner party. Prepare them in a way so that each person can have exactly however much he or she wants.

In short, you must turn cinnamon rolls into cake.

In this recipe, a chocolate yeast dough (emboldened with cocoa powder and chocolate chunks) is spread with butter, sugar, and bits of almond paste and additional chocolate. It's then curled around itself into a hypnotic spiral that bakes into a tall cake with the lift and fluff of a cinnamon roll. A cream cheese glaze adds tang; sugared almonds, crunch.

This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine and inspired by Sally's Baking Addiction. —Sarah Jampel

  • Makes one 10-inch cake
  • For the dough:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 pinch granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 large eggs
  • 480 grams all-purpose flour
  • 30 grams Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces finely chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate
  • For the assembly and the optional icing:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract, divided
  • 3 1/2 ounces (1/2 tube) almond paste, chopped finely
  • 2 ounces finely chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk, plus more as needed
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
In This Recipe
  1. For the dough:
  2. In a small bowl, heat the milk until it's warm but not hot, then stir in the yeast and a pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the teaspoon of salt at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until blended. Whisk together the flour and the cocoa powder, then beat in about 2 cups into the butter mixture at low speed until incorporated. Beat in the warm milk mixture, scraping in any yeast that has settled in the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Switch to a dough hook. Gradually add the remaining flour and beat at medium speed until a soft, sticky dough forms, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped chocolate and pulse the machine to incorporate it.
  6. Scrape the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  1. For the assembly and the optional icing:
  2. Make the filling by mixing together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Stir in the chopped chocolate and almond paste and set aside.
  3. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface and divide in half. Roll each half into a rectangular about 1/4-inch thick, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet (use a rolling pin to help you) and freeze for 15 minutes, until thoroughly chilled. Butter a 10-inch cake pan or springform pan.
  4. Next, spread the filling over the chilled dough rectangles. (You might want to use your hands to evenly distribute the filling, as there are chunks of chocolate and almond paste that make smooth spreading difficult.)
  5. Slicing from one short end to the other, cut the rectangles into long 1 1/2-inch wide strips. Roll one strip up as you would a normal cinnamon roll and place it in the center of the prepared baking dish. For the rest of the strips, you'll wrap them around this central roll to form a giant spiraling bun.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until puffy, about 1 hour. (You can also put the cake pan in the fridge, covered, and let it rise overnight. But be sure to allow the dough to come to room temperature before you bake it.) When it's almost finished rising, preheat the oven to 350° F. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 180° F.
  7. Let the cake stand for at least 5 minutes before turning out, then inverting onto a serving platter, or releasing the springform pan.
  8. For the icing, in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high for 4 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add the salt and milk and mix on low speed until smooth. If the glaze is too thick, add more milk, one tablespoon at a time, until it's drizzle-able. Drizzle over the still-warm cake.
  9. If you want, top the cake with sugared almonds. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, combine the almonds and sugar. Cook and stir until sugar is melted and almonds are toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer almonds to another dish to cool.

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  • Jeff Sloan
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Sarah Jampel

Recipe by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.